Brain-Eating Amoeba, Wasted Food, and Other News Items

This installment of an ongoing news items feature includes a story about a brain-eating amoeba that lives in freshwater lagoons and a report about the large quantity of wasted food in the U.S.

| November/December 1979


Naegleria fowleri, a freshwater amoeba which devours human brain cells, is responsible for 123 deaths worldwide.


The following short news items were drawn from multiple sources.  

Brain Eating Amoeba

The Center for Disease Control reports 123 deaths worldwide caused by Naegleria fowleri, a strain of freshwater amoeba which devours human brain cells (only three people have, so far, recovered from such attacks). Although there've been fewer than 35 victims in the United States in the past 12 years, the CDC cautions against extended underwater swimming.

Wasted Food

While millions starve, the government estimates that 20% of all food produced in the U.S. (an amount which adds up to about 137 million tons and is worth some $31 billion) is wasted. In one year alone, our nation's production and distribution systems lose enough food to keep 49 million people alive. Another 60 million tons of edibles (worth $5 billion) are simply left in fields and orchards for lack of commercial markets.

Drowning Fire Ants

Water quenches fire ants, according to Florida State University insect ecologist Dr. Walter Tschinkel. Just choose a cool, sunny day when most of the ants are close to the surface, break open the tops of all of the colony's hard mounds, and pour about three gallons of scalding water into each "hill." One or two additional applications of the hot liquid may be necessary, but any survivors will stay (where they can be re-treated) rather than merely relocating and building up their strength again, as they often do after chemical treatments.

New Light Bulb

A $10 light bulb,  made by General Electric, will be on the market in early 1981. The lamp will fit into existing sockets, should last four times longer than—and use about one-third the energy of—normal bulbs, and is expected to save the consumer about $20 over its projected life. Illumination in the new bulb is produced by an arc of electricity in a quarts-tube-enclosed metal halide vapor.

Electrified Beef

Electrified beef will soon be on the market, as the packing industry rapidly adopts a new process that tenderises meat with a series of 600-volt shocks administered to a carcass for about one minute before it's hung up to age. The treated meat is said to produce steaks that are 50% more tender than are untreated cuts, which will upgrade more beef to the "USDA Choice" class.

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